Priscilla Ray Life Story
In person, Ray is a delight; she’s bubbly, talkative and insanely funny. She greets me with a big hug, and agrees that we leave Café Javas to have our chat at Riders Lounge, Acacia Place, which was a lot quieter. Dressed in a blue Baum und pferdgarten ruffled striped shirt, and a pair of off-white printed textured Derek Lam 10 Crosby wide-leg pants.
Her hair, which she flips incessantly (because who wouldn’t?) is in a beautiful dark brown shade, a perfect match for her skin tone. She’s carrying a brown Chanel purse, which I later find out set her back a staggering $5000.
She was discovered at the age of 15, when she walked into Sylvia Owori’s ‘Sylvie’s Boutique’ on Kampala road, and asked if she could be a model. She was fresh from school wearing her Kitante Hill School uniform and dirty shoes.
“My friend and I were walking from school when we stumbled upon Sylvia Owori’s boutique,” she recalls. “I had been seeing and reading about all these glamorous things she was doing, and I thought ‘why not go in and give it a shot?’”
She was received with ‘wows’, and before she left, she met Sylvia Owori, who was blown away by her unique features. She signed with ‘Ziper Models’, one of the first modelling agencies in East Africa, and kicked off a life of runway shows, magazine spreads, advertising and glitzy events. This life of lights and attention was a wide swatch from the life she was familiar with at home.
Ray was born in 1986 in Kampala to an Italian father and a Mutooro mother. When she was 9 years old, her father disappeared, she has never seen him again.
“I wouldn’t say he was a loving father, but he cared for us. My mother would occasionally take me to his home to visit. One fateful morning, the images are still very vivid in my mind, we went to see him, only to be told that he was gone. No communication, nothing. He just left, “she recalls.
Her mother immediately took on the role of mother and father to her 5 children. “She was an uneducated poor woman, but she tried her best to provide. She made sure we had a normal childhood, albeit living in abject poverty.”
” Motherhood, The easiest job I’ve had to do so far. “
She and her siblings were always in and out of school because of the huge burden school fees was on their mother. At first, they lived on Kitante road, as her mother worked at a hotel close by. Then she lost the job and they moved to Rubaga where she rented a one-roomed house. Obviously things had to change. The kids had to walk a very long journey from home to school every morning.
“Life changed drastically. She would pack porridge or black tea without sugar in a flask. She would also prepare sweet potatoes. This would be our breakfast and lunch. She would do all this before leaving for work very early in the morning.
How she did it? I don’t even know,” she laughs. With all the gloom that hovered over them, they lived quite happily as a family.
When the little modelling jobs started bringing in some little cash, Ray chose to channel the income to her school fees to offset the burden her mother had. Towards her S6 final exams, she and her friends rented a small room deep down in Kifumbira slum on Mawanda road, to get closer school.
“It’s one of those things I can’t forget. Sometimes we would go days without using the bathroom to shower as it was shared by the whole neighbourhood, and it wasn’t the cleanest.”
Content courtesy of Satisfashion UG & Nairobi fashion hub Digital Team